Now, I’ve singled the President out in this regard not because he is the only politician who engages in this kind of maneuvering. Far from it! In fact, these rhetorical maneuvers are the stock in trade of debate in Washington. Politicos win an argument by mischaracterizing their opponents’ positions and/or attacking their personal motivations. That’s just how the game is played.
The problem is that – as MacGillis and Kane argue – Obama’s objective is to change the tone, making it more civil. If he wants to see that happen, he needs to get beyond these rhetorical maneuvers, for all they will do is annoy the opposition. This is why I’ve singled the President out today – because elevating the tone means fairly (and even charitably) characterizing your opposition. That is a necessary condition for a civilized debate.